See me after class

New study shows Texas' teaching environment needs tutoring

The Lone Star State ranks 19th in the U.S. for its teaching environment. Educational First Steps/Facebook

If Texas were a student, it would earn a mediocre grade when it comes to the state's atmosphere for schoolteachers. In a new study from personal finance website WalletHub, Texas ranks 19th for its teaching environment compared with the 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

While Texas earns good marks for teacher salaries, the rest of the state's grades for teachers are below average, according to WalletHub. In all, WalletHub studied 22 metrics to come up with its report card.

Texas ranks second for the average starting salary for teachers and 13th for the average salary for teachers. However, both data points adjusted for cost of living in Texas. The state also ranked 13th for the 10-year change in teachers' salaries, WalletHub says. Texas doesn't fare nearly as well in WalletHub's other measurements, though:

  • No. 29 for pupil-teacher ratio.
  • No. 30 for teacher safety.
  • No. 32 for fewest teachers per student projected for 2026.
  • No. 36 for school quality.
  • No. 36 for per-student spending in public schools. According to the National Education Association (NEA), per-student funding in Texas is $2,300 less than the national average.
  • No. 37 for teachers' potential for income growth.

A recent survey by the Texas State Teachers Association backs up the notion that the state's teachers aren't in the same class as their counterparts in places like New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois, which were graded by WalletHub as the best states for teachers.

For instance, the Texas survey indicates that about four of every 10 teachers expect to take jobs outside the classroom to make ends meet during the academic year. In addition, the typical teacher in the survey reported spending an average of $738 a year on school supplies out of his or her own pocket.

According to the survey, moonlighting teachers in Texas average 14.1 hours a week at their extra jobs. That's on top of the 17 hours a week they spend outside the classroom on school-related work.

The Austin-based Texas State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the NEA, says the average salary of teachers in the survey was $53,221, which is $7,300 below the national average. According to the NEA, Texas ranks 29th for teacher pay.

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas association, pins the blame for the plight of Texas teachers on Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and their legislative allies. He says they've failed to properly finance public education.

"Our teachers … remain dedicated to their students' success, even if it means spending evenings and weekends at extra jobs away from their families," Candelaria says in a release. "It's time for our elected officials at the state Capitol to demonstrate the same kind of dedication to our children by providing the necessary resources."

In August, Abbott said he wants to boost pay for the state's best teachers, putting them on a path toward earning more than $100,000 a year — without a hike in property taxes.

"Teaching is a calling; it would be hard to do otherwise," Abbott said. "But I want to ensure that teaching in Texas also becomes a profession, where we are able to attract the very best and keep the very best."

"We can and we must do more to improve education in Texas," the governor said. "As we approach this next legislative session [in 2019], one of my top goals is to improve education by investing more in our teachers and students."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

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